The Obama administration, in coordination with some European allies, is for the first time considering supplying direct assistance to elements of the Free Syrian Army as they seek to ramp up pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down and end nearly two years of brutal and increasingly deadly violence.
Officials in the United States and Europe said Tuesday the administration is nearing a decision on whether to provide non-lethal assistance to carefully vetted fighters opposed to the Assad regime in addition to what it is already supplying to the political opposition. A decision is expected by Thursday when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will attend an international conference on Syria in Rome that leaders of the opposition Syrian National Coalition have been persuaded to attend, the officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the shift in strategy has not yet been finalized and still needs to be coordinated with European nations, notably Britain. They are eager to vastly increase the size and scope of assistance for Assad’s foes.